No Pushball in Bradford

I came across the following article in the Yorkshire Sports of 6th September, 1902 whilst undertaking some research about early football in Bradford.

1902-09-06 ys pushball

The game of pushball had been devised in the United States in 1891. In the late summer of 1902 there was a series of exhibition matches in England, Scotland and Ireland, best described as a speculative commercial venture intended to win converts. There was a lot of hype involved with its promotion and to judge from attendances there was success in appealing to the curiosity of the public.

The tour included games in Sheffield, Leeds, Hull and Halifax but surprisingly did not involve two other centres of West Riding sport, Bradford and Huddersfield. The venues adopted included Crystal Palace in London (where the FA Cup Final was played) and St James Park, Newcastle. In August, 1902 there were games at Headingley, Leeds (which attracted just over four thousand), the Boulevard in Hull (five thousand crowd) and Hanson Lane, Halifax (only one thousand attending, attributed to wet weather).

For the three Northern Union (rugby) clubs it represented a welcome revenue generating opportunity and hence why it is notable that Bradford and Huddersfield were excluded. It is possible that cricket commitments at Park Avenue in Bradford and Fartown in Huddersfield precluded pushball being staged. On the other hand the leadership of the Bradford and Huddersfield clubs, as well as Manningham FC, may have had misgivings about involvement. For example the staging of the Savage Africa Show at Valley Parade the previous year had had limited financial benefit and been at the expense of the playing field.

There is no reason to believe that the three Yorkshire rugby clubs staging pushball envisaged abandoning their sport for the new game, notwithstanding growing apathy about Northern Union rugby relative to the popularity of association football or ‘socker’ as it was known locally. The general consensus of newspaper accounts was that pushball was unlikely to catch on (as was indeed the case).

It will be noted that according to the Yorkshire Sports, pushball was considered a game to be played by girls, a statement betraying contemporary attitudes with a rigid cultural delineation of sports by sex [1]. By contrast, football – a generic term embracing both rugby and association – was considered to be a masculine sport, the best demonstration of which was played in a scientific fashion rather than being a superficial entertainment or show as was the case with pushball.

More about Pushball: Wikipedia The Guardian The Slate

John Dewhirst

[1] Refer to my feature about The origins of women’s football in Bradford (updated with new images since originally published in September, 2018).


Thanks for visiting my blog. You will find links from the menu above to other features I have published online about the history of football in Bradford and Bradford City in particular. I contribute to the BCAFC match day programme and you can also find archive images as well as a number of book reviews. The links provide free, accessible history about BCAFC based on substance rather than soundbites.


If you are interested in the history of Bradford sport then visit VINCIT where you will find features about the history of different sports and clubs in the district.

Recent articles published on VINCIT written by myself include:

The Paraders’ record breaking season of 1928/29

Centenary of Scholemoor Ground, Lidget Green and revival of Bradford RFC

The story of Shipley FC and Bradford’s other c19th junior rugby clubs

The origins of women’s football in Bradford

The significance of sport in shaping a Bradford identity

History of the Bradford Charity Cup

Compendium of Bradford sports club names

The late development of soccer in Bradford

John Nunn, Bradford physical aesthete

The story of the Belle Vue Hotel, a nineteenth century pub adopted as a sports headquarters in Bradford

The history of Bradford rugby and the case to reassess the split in English rugby in 1895 My findings from investigation of the origins and development of Bradford football provide sufficient evidence to challenge the orthodox view that the split in English rugby was driven by social class as opposed to the economics of sport.

The myth that the City – Avenue rivalry was based on class politics

The political origins of Bradford Cricket Club in 1836: Blaming the Tories

Cricket: the DNA of Bradford sport

Details of my books published in the BANTAMSPAST HISTORY REVISITED SERIES

Tweets: @jpdewhirst